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Cost-effective
network
management:
challenges and
benefits

Author: Gary Hilson

Technology accumulates, and without cost-effective network management, you might end up spending money on IT infrastructure you don't need to.

The rapid pace of business means many organizations over provision everything from applications and databases to servers and network switches. Businesses don't have enough time to review and rationalize what they have, so they forget they already have it or don't know how to begin to find it in an ever-growing pile. It's akin to already having a tool you need in your basement but going out and buying another one instead.

In order to help improve efficiency and transparency, the strategy you choose should be aligned with your business goals. Cost-effective network management allows for a holistic view of all the IT you've accumulated, with a clear understanding of who is using it and how it aligns with the overall business mission. From there, you can determine what activities can be handed over to a trusted partner, so you get time back to focus on critical goals.

Top cost-effective network management challenge: infrastructure sprawl

Software as a service (SaaS), as well as devices, networking and storage, can complicate network management. Often, individual lines of business spin up applications as needed for their unique goals, further complicating matters.

Even if all deployments are vetted by the IT team, the organization can end up with a glut of applications, databases, servers and even networking gear, all of which can be accompanied by a plethora of infrastructure, maintenance, support contracts and vendor relationships. As a result, you may still be paying for unused software, hardware and user licenses.

These are just a few of the IT applications that can contribute to infrastructure sprawl:

Cloud computing

With the adoption of cloud computing, it's much easier for marketing, sales, finance or human resources to go directly to a vendor for a solution to their problems. Although cloud-based offerings can reduce on-site hardware requirements, they put pressure on the network and can create security and license management obligations.

Security solutions

Even security can create unnecessary sprawl. Given the many threat actors and nearly constant attacks on enterprise networks, organizations might scramble to adopt more platforms and end up with a convoluted array of firewalls, intrusion prevention systems and multiple dashboards to monitor. Rather than better securing the organization, it can make cost-effective network management exceedingly cumbersome.

Servers

Similarly, it's easy to end up with too many servers because every time a business unit makes a request, a separate one is set up as IT works hard to keep up with demand. Often, they're running too hard and fast to find time to rationalize and consolidate.

Network management

Finally, network management can become overwhelming as IT teams provision more bandwidth in the form of new hardware deployments to keep up with ever-increasing demand for throughput to support digital business needs.  It’s possible to replace or enhance the current infrastructure with more modern, faster, secure communications technology.

How to perform an internal IT audit

Your strategy for managing your network and everything connected to it plays a key role in your digital transformation efforts. Every technology deployment should enable your business.

A reactive strategy to addressing business needs means IT teams end up with a ton of technology to manage and a lack of transparency as to what it's actually supporting. Worst-case scenario, you're buying software or services you're no longer using or duplicating efforts. It's akin to letting your basement get so cluttered that it becomes a monumental task to organize it.

Cost-effective network management demands a good spring cleaning in the form of a comprehensive audit. The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) describes three phases for an IT audit: planning, fieldwork and documentation, and reporting and follow-up. The first phase consists of five key steps.

The first step determines the subject of your audit, the second step defines the objective, and the third step sets the scope. The third step is critical because you must understand the IT environment and all its components to best identify the resources to do an evaluation. From there, you can do some pre-audit planning, such as identifying regulatory compliance requirements, conducting a risk assessment and allocating any resources required. The fifth and final step is to determine audit procedures and steps for data gathering.

Determining the subject of an audit can help you begin what can be a big cleanup by picking a corner to start with. There are many subject areas that are ripe for an audit in most enterprises:

  • Security: It's easy to fall into the trap of adding more platforms rather than optimizing what you have. You should have only one product per category—one firewall technology, for example. A best-of-breed approach is fine, too, if you pick a single solution that best meets your requirements.
  • Vendors and contracts: Although a single provider is unlikely to meet all your needs, leveraging flexible services and rationalizing vendors within categories can reduce costs. It can streamline contract management and hopefully deepens the relationships you have with suppliers, so they can become productive partnerships for solving business problems.
  • User licenses: Whether it's on-premises software or SaaS, it's easy to accumulate seats for software you're not using. While you want some headroom to accommodate growth, the costs of unused software licenses can add up.
  • Hardware and asset inventory: Could you be consolidating applications and data on a smaller number of servers? Do you need to maintain backups on-site rather than in a cloud solution? Do you run multiple, discrete networks for various lines of business or use cases, or can you leverage the software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) better?

If you conduct your IT audit as part of your digital transformation efforts, one of your goals should be to understand how your time should be spent. Time is money, and given that IT never seems to have enough of it, don't ignore the possibilities that can open up by engaging with third-party network services.

Learn how Verizon's managed network services can help manage day-to-day tasks and keep your network secure and agile.